On Tuesday, the race for Hennepin County attorney comes to an end as Martha Holton Dimick (a former judge) and Mary Moriarty, former chief Hennepin County defense lawyer, compete to win the office.
This hotly contested race has seen an increase in criminal activity over the past few years. The spotlight on police accountability was brought to the forefront following the conviction of two ex-officers for the murders of Black men.
MinnPost spoke to supporters of both candidates in the last week of the election to find out why they were backing them and why they believe their chosen candidate is best suited to the job.
Local politics watchers might be familiar with the dynamics of Hennepin County’s attorney race. There is a split between progressive and centrist voter bases, similar to the 5th District Congressional primary between Rep. Ilhan Olam and Don Samuels; in the 2021 Minneapolis mayoral election and a ballot question asking voters if they want to overhaul the police department.
Many progressives love Moriarty. She was a Hennepin County public defense attorney for 31 years and the chief of the office for six. In August’s Democratic Primary, she won twice as many votes than the next candidate in a competitive field of seven candidates with 36% of the 62,000 votes cast. Dimick, who received the endorsement of moderater political figures, came in second at 18%. She beat Ryan Winkler (Democratic House Majority Leader), and four other candidates.
Moriarty won the DFL endorsement. He also has the support of Rep. Ilhan Olamar and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. There are more than three dozen elected officials from local and state. Moriarty has been supported by groups like the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the Minnesota chapter of The National Association of Social Workers.
Erica Mauter from TakeAction Minnesota stated that her group’s endorsement for Moriarty is partly due to her acknowledgment of the county’s criminal justice system being rife in racial bias, and her commitment towards restorative justice.
Moriarty promises that her platform will center victims in her office’s approach. It will offer support services and transparency about how her office prosecutes offender.
Mauter stated that she understood that justice is dependent on the needs and wants of victims of crime and that building systems that take these into consideration is key to achieving that. “That’s different than a mass incarceration and ‘lock them all down’ approach. We have plenty of evidence and lots of data to prove that this doesn’t work .”
Minnesota civil and criminal rights attorney Al Goins stated that the county’s top lawyer should be “the most powerful lawyer you can find.” He must have the ability to supervise an office and understand each case.
Goins was impressed by Moriarty’s analysis of news stories and tweets in the case against Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer. He said that Moriarty, who made holding police officers accountable a key part of her campaign platform, is the candidate to continue the momentum for police accountability, as well as increasing calls for it since George Floyd was murdered.
He said that he understood all the issues involved in a very complex and delicate case. These are the issues that prosecutors in Hennepin County and across the country will have to deal with. They’ll have to accept the fact that they’ll have to prosecute those who have power span>
Goins stated that prosecutors have the responsibility not only to get convictions, but also to ensure justice is done. Therefore, the next Hennepin County attorney can’t accept every case brought up by police officers as a single case. He stated that Moriarty’s pledge to hold police officers accountable through prosecution and by calling out illegal or unethical police conduct would increase community trust in police.
He said that a Moriarty administration would be emblematic of this style. That would be emblematic for a Moriarty administration span>
Dimick also has a long history in the justice system. He was a Fourth Judicial District Judge and Hennepin County Prosecutor. A number of current elected officials in the Twin Cities area have supported Dimick before Tuesday’s election. These include U.S. Rep Dean Phillips and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. Freeman urged the voters to vote for Dimick in a letter to editor published in the Albertville Press & News this month.
span style=”font weight: 400 After 24 years of service as your Hennepin County attorney, I will be retiring in January. The letter states that Martha Holton Dimick is the only candidate who stands out when looking at the candidates for my replacement. Martha Holton Dimick span> is the only candidate who has the experience and demeanor necessary to run the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office effectively.
Dimick has also received endorsements from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Associations (MPPOA), Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputies Associations and North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters among others.
“Holton Dimick has a comprehensive, actionable plan to make Hennepin County a safe and vibrant place for people to live, work, and study.” Brian Peters, executive director of MPPOA, stated in a statement. “Holton Dimick has an actionable, comprehensive plan to make Hennepin County safe and vibrant for people to live, work and go to school span>
Dimick lists violent crime reduction as her top priority on her platform. She says she will do this by quickly prosecuting offenders.
President and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council Steve Cramer called this race the most important in terms of public safety. He supports Dimick because of her past as both a prosecutor as well as behind the bench as an attorney, which he believes gives her the ability to make residents feel more secure in her role as Hennepin County Attorney.
He said that he felt there was a clear difference between the two candidates and their platforms. It seems that there is a clear distinction between the candidates and their platforms .”
Although opponents might paint Dimick as a candidate who is not interested in changing the status quo, and Cramer does not agree with that view, he stated that he does not believe reforming the county attorney’s office should be its primary priority.
He said that he doesn’t believe this is the right time to reform the office as the primary goal. “I believe this is the time to be an important partner to a broad range of law enforcement agencies and community stakeholders to uphold safety through accountable is a key goal .”
Dimick is more than $70,000 ahead of her opponent in donations, having raised more than $312,000 and nearly $86,000 cash, according to the most recent filings before Tuesday’s election. Moriarty has more than $238,000 in donations and just over $48,000 cash on hand.
However, Moriarty has been the recipient of significant outside spending by groups like ColorOfChangePAC (a national group that claims its mission is to elect progressives) and Faith in Minnesota (the PAC arm of ISAIAH). According to the most recent campaign finance filings (which cover the race until October), more than $136,000 was spent independently by groups trying to influence the election. These funds are not allowed to be coordinated with the campaign and can be used to influence voters for Moriarty.